Keller Rohrback Investigates Claims Against Portland Glass Manufacturers For Arsenic and Cadmium Pollution

National environmental litigation firm Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is investigating potential claims on behalf of residents and businesses in Portland affected by high levels of airborne toxins from art glass manufacturers.

In February, Oregon state regulators first disclosed that the air in part of southeast Portland has tested for extremely high levels of arsenic and cadmium, which are used to manufacture colored glass.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, persistent exposure to high concentrations of arsenic can cause skin, lung, or bladder cancer, and the health effects for cadmium exposure include lung cancer and kidney damage.

Additional information is available from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority.

Regulators have identified Bullseye Glass Co. as the source of high levels of arsenic and cadmium in the part of southeast Portland just south of Southeast 22nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard. A second, similar hotspot in northeast Portland has been attributed to a facility owned by Uroboros Glass, though Uroboros has said that it has not used arsenic in its products for over 20 years.

According to media reports, neither company uses “baghouse” pollution control devices to capture emissions from their glass melt furnaces, even though they use those devices in other parts of their operations.

“It’s unconscionable that these companies apparently put Portlanders at unnecessary risk, and that regulators have not done enough to protect the public,” said Daniel Mensher, an attorney at Keller Rohrback and former Clinical Professor and Staff Attorney at Earthrise Law Center, the environmental law clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. Joining Mr. Mensher in Keller Rohrback’s investigation is Matthew Preusch, Keller Rohrback attorney and former environmental reporter at The Oregonian in Portland.

Bullseye Glass Leak Timeline

2005 – With EPA funding, DEQ measured concentrations of air toxics, including metals, at six locations in the Portland area, finding levels of many pollutants above clean air benchmarks.

  • Benchmarks are Oregon’s protective “clean air” goals that were developed by DEQ to address toxic air pollutants. There are no direct regulatory requirements associated with benchmarks. Air quality standards are set at the federal level by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nationwide for a different category of pollutants called criteria pollutants, which include: Particulate Matter, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Lead, and other pollutants.

Dec. 2013 – June 2014 – USFS collected, analyzed, and received raw results for 346 moss and soil samples in Southeast Portland.

Nov. 2014 – Aug. 2015 – USFS collected, analyzed, and received raw results for 164 additional moss samples from Portland Public Schools

June 2015 – DEQ identified glass facilities as potential sources of cadmium and arsenic

January 2016 – Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released preliminary data from air quality monitoring that showed elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium near Southeast 22nd Avenue and Southeast Powell Boulevard. The DEQ concluded that the air toxins were likely related to emissions from the Bullseye Glass Company manufacturing facility located at 3722 SE 21st Avenue.

02/04/2016 – Bullseye Glass has notified DEQ that it has suspended all glass manufacturing operations at its facility that use cadmium and arsenic compounds. Additionally, Bullseye Glass has engaged an environmental consulting firm to evaluate the data, perform additional testing and potentially explore longer term options, as informed by the data. There is no current risk of exposure from this source.

  • Bullseye Glass Company temporarily suspended its use of cadmium and arsenic.

02/08/2016 – Uroboros voluntarily suspended the use of cadmium and stated that it has not used arsenic for 20 years.

02/12/2016 – Bullseye Glass Company agreed to suspend use of hexavalent chromium, and further agreed to stop using cadmium and arsenic; Uroboros agreed to suspend their use of all chromium compounds and cadmium, and does not use arsenic.

02/19/2016 – OHA recommends not eating vegetables grown within a half mile

02/23/2016 – The CEO and co-owner of Bullseye Glass wrote a letter to Oregon lawmakers Monday, agreeing to stop using arsenic indefinitely.

Attorneys in Keller Rohrback’s Complex Litigation Group have a long history of successfully representing individuals and class members in a wide range of important environmental litigation. Whether working for victims of oil spills, communities exposed to toxic materials, or people who purchased contaminated or defective products, Keller Rohrback’s team of experienced environmental litigators have helped to protect people and the environment across the country. For example, Keller Rohrback represented fishermen, landowners, and businesses located in Prince William Sound in their action against Exxon to recover damages caused by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. A federal jury awarded a $5 billion judgment in favor of Keller Rohrback clients.

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